Frederick II, King of Prussia [Friedrich II; Frederick the Great]
- E. Eugene Helm
- , revised by Derek McCulloch
[Friedrich II; Frederick the Great]
(b Berlin, Jan 24, 1712; d Potsdam, Aug 17, 1786). German monarch, patron of the arts, flautist and composer. His father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, was alarmed at his son’s early preference for intellectual and artistic pursuits over the military and religious. In spite of being supervised day and night and in the face of his father’s rages and corporal punishments, Frederick managed, partly through the complicity of his mother and his older sister Wilhelmina, to read forbidden books, to affect French dress and manners and to play flute duets with his servant. As a seven-year-old he was permitted to study thoroughbass and four-part composition with the cathedral organist Gottlieb Hayne. Wilhelmina, also musically talented, joined him in impromptu concerts. On a visit to Dresden in 1728 the prince was overwhelmed at hearing his first opera, Hasse’s Cleofide; there he also first heard the playing of the flautist J.J. Quantz, who soon thereafter began making occasional visits to Berlin to give Frederick flute lessons. The king tolerated such amusements for a while, but by ...